Digital Chum - Virtual fish guts and other nonsense


15 Book Meme

I read about this a couple times already, but just saw it recently on (((Billy’s))) site and I figured I’d go along with it. Here’s the scoop.

Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.

So here’s my list. I came up with the list in short order, but took some time to fill out the descriptions and the reasons for the picks.

  1. Dune by Frank Herbert
    This was the first real science fiction book that pulled me into its world. I read and re-read it countless times, soaking up the bits of "wisdom" before each chapter as if they were universal truths being surreptitiously revealed to me.
  2. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Not much to say here except that LOTR is obviously the foundational work for fantasy and, other than skimming over the elvish songs when I read it (!!!), I savor every word.
  3. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
    I forget how I heard about this book (Quality Paperback Book Club?), but it’s become one of my all time favorite trilogies. The world is fantastic. The characters are wonderful. The uniqueness is stunning. The message is delectable.
  4. Why I am Not a Christian by Bertrand Russell
    This book is significant for me not because of all the content (it’s a big collection of essays, the title essay being just one of many), but because it was the first book I ever bought that had to do with my newly-realized atheism around age 13.
  5. Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks
    This book was the perfect recipe to quench my thirst for epic fantasy after reading Lord of the Rings. Though much lighter in tone, the world and the mythology that Brooks created was still captivating and enticing.
  6. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
    When I was a kid, this was my favorite book and it was the first time I ever memorized a book cover to cover. Max was awesome and brave and cool… and just a little bit bad.
  7. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
    Dinosaurs are cool… but dead. Who wouldn’t love to see an actual Jurassic Park with real dinosaurs in their "natural" habitat. Crichton sucked me in and had me on the edge of my seat with his tale of science gone amuck. I saw the movie first, then read the book, and when I saw the movie a second time, I realized how vivid Crichton’s prose was. I kept expecting to see scenes in the movie that I "remembered" from the first viewing, but were only scenes in my imagination, created by his words.
  8. The Stand by Stephen King
    This was a great post-apocalyptic yarn with really creepy parts (going through the corpse-filled Lincoln Tunnel in pitch blackness, anyone?). This cemented Stephen King onto my list as a great writer.
  9. Shatterday by Harlan Ellison
    This was my first book by Harlan Ellison and I now have a shelf full of his works. Shatterday is a collection of short stories and it was the first short story collection that I ever read, in order, non-stop from cover to cover. Ellison is a master and is my all-time favorite author.
  10. The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
    As a science fiction fan, I was intrigued by the time travel aspect of this book. As it turns out, it’s not really science fiction, but is truly a love story… done in a way that makes time travel seem not just plausible, but catastrophically inconvenient… and sad… and happy… and scary.
  11. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
    This book just wowed me. Golden draws you into a Geisha’s life with such intricate detail while making you empathize with the character’s tragic situation with every bone of your body. His prose makes you feel like you’re inside a fantasy world, not a historical one.
  12. Cyborg by Martin Caiden
    This is the book that was the basis for The Six Million Dollar Man with Lee Majors, though there were significant differences. Cyborg was a gritty action novel of "science," intrigue, spies, and politics… and it was way better than the TV show.
  13. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
    An epic Heinlein tale, Stranger was so sweeping that I don’t remember many of the details, but a few of them have stuck with me my entire life. It’s on a list of "read ’em again" books.
  14. My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
    My mother introduced me to this book as it was a favorite of hers growing up. This wonderful tale of a young boy’s search to find and rescue a baby dragon on the Wild Island… a dragon that he learned about from an old alley cat. With wonderful talking animals, colorful characters, and a great happy ending, this is a terrific book that I passed on to my daughter.
  15. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
    I don’t remember the whole story of this book, but I remember it was my inspiration for how to survive when I ran away from home at age 12. I planned on living in the woods and surviving by using many of the techniques described in this book… though I ended up returning home the next day when I couldn’t get a fire started and got really, really homesick.

There’s my list. I could have added a few others, but those were the first ones that came to mind.

Random Borders Book Discovery, FTW!

Zombie HaikuI’ve been a fan of zombies for quite some time, so any time I get a chance to partake in some new zombie shenanigans, it’s a good day.

I was at Borders Bookstore today to spend my newly earned $20 in Borders Bucks (along with a 30% off coupon) and after picking up a book about dinosaurs for my daughter and 40 Days and 40 Nights and The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster for me, I was briefly perusing the humor section (it was on the way to the checkout counter) and stumbled across this gem entitled Zombie Haiku.

I paused and stared blankly at the book on the shelf for a good 15 or 20 seconds, stunned. Then, without another thought, I reached down, grabbed the book, and tossed it in my basket without even looking through it.

Oh, it was worth it! It starts out posing as someone’s poetry journal, but there’s a story scribbled in the margins from someone locked in a bathroom in order to avoid the zombies outside, knowing that he will inevitably be devoured, since he had no way to escape. He explains that the journal was being held by a zombie whose arm he had hacked off. The rest of the “poetry journal” shows the haiku of the former owner as he transforms from a puzzled office worker (Why all the car accidents in the morning? Why is nobody at the office? Why is Beth in her car eating spaghetti? Oh my god, that’s not spaghetti!) to minion of the undead.

Here’s a brief sampling…

Beth from accounting
is just sitting in her car
eating spaghetti.

I ask her what’s up
but she just eats in her car.
Something’s wrong with Beth.

That escalates to things like…

They surround the car
and are all moaning something.
Is that the word “trains”?!

…and then…

There’s nothing quite like
the pain you feel while dying —
switching to hunger.


One thing on my mind,
only one thing on my mind.
I’m going to eat you.

…and my favorite so far…

Brains, BRAINS, Brains, brains, BRAINS.
Brains, brains, Brains, BRAINS, Brains, brains, BRAINS.
BRAINS, Brains, brains, BRAINS, brains.

It just keeps going after that with some real gems, depicting the continuing adventure of life as a zombie.

The author ends with a heartfelt haiku thanks to George Romero.

To George Romero:
Because of you, I’m screwed up.
Thanks for your movies

Ah, zombies.

But wait! There’s more!

Brisingr CoverI just finished reading the book Brisingr by Christopher Paolini. It’s the third book in The Inheritance Cycle (which was originally intended to be a trilogy but will continue in a fourth book). It took me a long time to read, mostly because I only read it a few nights a week after going to bed, but also because it didn’t pull me in the way the previous two books did.

Brisingr continues the story of Eragon, a dragon-rider, and Saphira, his dragon. Secondary characters include Rowan,  Eragon’s step-brother, and Nasuada, the queen of the Varden, a group united to overthrow Galbatorix, the evil ruler of Alagaesia. The story progresses with threads following each one’s adventures as they struggle with issues surrounding the war, its effect on their lives, and the puzzle of how to defeat Galbatorix, a seemingly undefeatable foe.

The trouble is that the story doesn’t advance very far, especially given the 750 pages of the book. Things happen, of course, but Paolini tended to draw them out into long stretches of debatably articulate prose. The 200 or so pages dedicated to a tediously staged delving into dwarven politics come to mind, with the teeth-grindingly annoying use of “mine” instead of “my” to characterize dwarven speech (This is mine house. This is mine brother. These are mine annoying speech habits). No doubt, some of the events that laboriously unfolded will be of some importance in the last (?) book of the series, but forcing the reader to trudge through 200 pages to explain those events tests the limits of fan loyalty.

Once free from dwarven politics, we are then set upon by the nuances of internal dragon monologues where dragons seem to lose their ability to speak in English as they do for the rest of the book. Instead of writing “humans,” Paolini decides that Saphira calls them “two-legs-round-ears.” He replaces similar common words (somewhat randomly, it seems) with other hyphenated-description-words. Perhaps it was an attempt to show that dragons think differently that we do, but it comes across as annoying and stilted, especially given how dragons are developed in the books as extremely intelligent and even eloquent up to that point.

There were, however, many interesting parts and wonderful tidbits scattered throughout the pages of the book and overall, it was a pleasant read. Dragons and elves, magic and swordplay… they are the things fantasy readers adore, and Brisingr is filled with them. The return to the elven city of Ellesméra was a delight (for me, anyway) since it signaled a continuation of Eragon and Saphira’s training with their elders. The revelations which unfolded there probably laid the key groundwork for the conclusion of the series.

But those revelations occurred in the final 150 pages (or less) of the book. Up to that point, there were 500+ pages of narrative that really didn’t do much in the way of character development or plot development. There were points here and there, but nothing that couldn’t have been accomplished in 100 pages or less. The entire book should have been contained within 250 pages at the most. Why it wasn’t, I’m not sure. Whether to blame it on Paolini or his editors or a money-grubbing publisher who wanted to extend the series… I don’t know. Nor does it really matter.

I am disappointed that Brisingr didn’t complete the epic. I am disappointed that I now have to wait an indeterminate amount of time for Paolini to finish the fourth (and hopefully final) book in the series.

And, worst of all, I’m apprehensive that the fourth book will force me to wade through a bog of tedium in order to gather the worthwhile parts of what started out a delightful story.